Law of the Soviet Union

The Law of the Soviet Union—also known as Socialist Law—was the law developed in the Soviet Union following the October Revolution of 1917. Modified versions of the Soviet legal system were adopted by many Communist states following the Second World War including Mongolia, the People's Republic of China, the countries of eastern Europe, Cuba and Vietnam.

Soviet legal system regarded law as an arm of politics and courts as agencies of the government . The system was designed to protect the state from an individual, rather than to protect an individual from the state. Extensive extra-judiciary powers were given to the Soviet secret police agencies. According to Vladimir Lenin, the purpose of socialist courts was "not to eliminate terror ... but to substantiate it and legitimize in principle"

oviet concept of law

In 1917, the Soviet authorities formally repealed all Tsarist legislation and established a socialist legal system. This system abolished all most important legal Western concepts including the rule of law, the civil liberties, the protection of law and guarantees of property. [ Richard Pipes (2001) "Communism" Weidenfled and Nicoloson. ISBN 0-297-64688-5 ] [ Richard Pipes (1994) "Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime". Vintage. ISBN 0-679-76184-5., pages 401-403. ] . According to Western legal theory, "it is the individual who is the beneficiary of human rights which are to be asserted "against" the government", whereas Soviet law claimed the opposite. [Lambelet, Doriane. "The Contradiction Between Soviet and American Human Rights Doctrine: Reconciliation Through Perestroika and Pragmatism." 7 "Boston University International Law Journal". 1989. p. 61-62.] Crime was determined not as the infraction of law, but as any action which could threaten the Soviet state.

For example, a desire to make a profit could be interpreted as a counter-revolutionary activity punishable by death. The liquidation and deportation of millions peasants in 1928-31 was carried out within the terms of Soviet Civil Code. Richard Pipes "Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime", Vintage books, Random House Inc., New York, 1995, ISBN 0-394-50242-6, pages 402-403 ] Some Soviet legal scholars even asserted that "criminal repression" may be applied in the absence of guilt.". Martin Latsis, chief of the Ukrainian Cheka explained:

:"Do not look in the file of incriminating evidence to see whether or not the accused rose up against the Soviets with arms or words. Ask him instead to which class he belongs, what is his background, his education, his profession. These are the questions that will determine the fate of the accused. That is the meaning and essence of the Red Terror." Yevgenia Albats and Catherine A. Fitzpatrick. "The State Within a State: The KGB and Its Hold on Russia - Past, Present, and Future", 1994. ISBN 0-374-52738-5.]

The purpose of public trials was "not to demonstrate the existence or absence of a crime - that was predetermined by the appropriate party authorities - but to provide yet another forum for political agitation and propaganda for the instruction of the citizenry. Defense lawyers, who had to be party members, were required to take their client's guilt for granted..."

Constitutional law

*1924 Soviet Constitution
*1936 Soviet Constitution
*1977 Soviet Constitution

Court structure

Soviet Law did not use an adversarial system, in which a plaintiff and defendant argue before a neutral judge. Instead, court proceedings in the Soviet Union included a judge, a procurator, a defense attorney and two people's assessors, and allowed for free participation by the judge.

Judges kept legal technicalities to a minimum; the court's stated purpose was to find the truth, rather than to protect legal rights. Other aspects of Soviet Law more closely resembled the Anglo-Saxon system. In theory, all citizens were equal before the law—defendants could appeal to a higher court if they believed their sentence to be too harsh. However, the procurator could also appeal if he/she considered the sentence to be too lenient. Soviet Law also guaranteed defendants the right to legal representation, and the right to be tried in their native language, or to use an interpreter. Although most hearings were open to the public, hearings could also be held privately, if the Soviet Government deemed it necessary.



*cite book| last = Butler | first = William Elliott | title = Soviet law| edition = 2nd edn. | year = 1988 | publisher = Butterworths Legal Publishers | location = Stoneham, Massachusetts

ee also

* Soviet Decrees
* Law of the Russian Federation
* Show trial
* Socialist law
* Socialist Legality
* NKVD troika
* Burlaw court

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